I loved this book. It was riveting and eye-opening, and it hit so close to home. This is happening in my own backyard. It's happening in yours. This bI loved this book. It was riveting and eye-opening, and it hit so close to home. This is happening in my own backyard. It's happening in yours. This book, and it's author, are proof that even hardened criminals have hearts, and if given the chance, are capable of redemption....more
The extra star is an acknowledgement, a tip of the hat, to the fact that I couldn't put the book down, awful and nausea inspiring as it was. Is this rThe extra star is an acknowledgement, a tip of the hat, to the fact that I couldn't put the book down, awful and nausea inspiring as it was. Is this real life?...more
This book felt shallow (and kind of mean?) in comparison to Bryson's later works (in particular, In a Sunburned Country, which I just loved). I wish hThis book felt shallow (and kind of mean?) in comparison to Bryson's later works (in particular, In a Sunburned Country, which I just loved). I wish he would have taken the time to focus on a few places and give us a sense of their history (or his history with them), rather than taking us all over the place and showing us mostly what I would call irrelevant details. Overall the book was pleasant, but disappointing. ...more
Somehow I thought I could escape this book without crying, despite having seen the movie and crying for thirty minutes straight. This goes to show youSomehow I thought I could escape this book without crying, despite having seen the movie and crying for thirty minutes straight. This goes to show you how stupid I am, because I've been known to cry at Elf, Brother Bear, and every five minutes while watching Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.
Despite my hysterics, if you don't cry while reading this book, then there is something wrong with you. Go see a shrink or something, seriously. God, I want some milk....more
Not a very fast read or provocative, but an extremely informative ethnography. If you ever have a pressing need to know how the ancient Sioux used toNot a very fast read or provocative, but an extremely informative ethnography. If you ever have a pressing need to know how the ancient Sioux used to live, this is the book for you....more
I may be a little bit biased, for example this is my favorite t-shirt, but I loved this book. From start to finish, it's a riveting, narrative historiI may be a little bit biased, for example this is my favorite t-shirt, but I loved this book. From start to finish, it's a riveting, narrative historical account of the assassination and its aftermath. Even John Wilkes Booth becomes a sympathetic human being in Swanson's care. These aren't just dry, historical figures anymore. By putting them in the context of a story -- even fictionalizing/speculating a little bit -- he makes them real people....more
I feel that I should give this book five stars solely for the monumental task of writing history so that I could actually follow it, something my braiI feel that I should give this book five stars solely for the monumental task of writing history so that I could actually follow it, something my brain has a great amount of trouble with for some reason. This was my first Vowell, and it was good enough that I shall most definitely be reading another.
My only complaint is with the lack of chapters and the occasional jumping around in time, but again, this complaint is most likely mine alone because of my fuzzy-history-brain. It's a good thing this book was so enjoyable, because I'm going to forget everything that was in it in about two weeks and have to read it all over again. Just exactly why I can remember every minute little plot bunny in Harry Potter down to the color of Sirius Black's shoes in Order of the Phoenix without even blinking, but cannot for the life of me remember why Paul Revere was important or what started the Civil War, I have no idea. ...more
Scrumptiously entertaining and educational, Bill Bryson has the knack for making the seemingly most inane fact and historical account read like a tinyScrumptiously entertaining and educational, Bill Bryson has the knack for making the seemingly most inane fact and historical account read like a tiny treasure. Put Shakespeare and Bryson together and the result is just FUN. In particular, the tongue-in-cheek last chapter in which Bryson addresses the question of Shakespeare's authorship is downright hilarious, if you like that sort of thing. Highly recommended....more
If you’ve ever asked yourself, Abraham Lincoln, what is with that guy? This is the book for you.
The answer to that question is both simple and complexIf you’ve ever asked yourself, Abraham Lincoln, what is with that guy? This is the book for you.
The answer to that question is both simple and complex. It’s complex because all people are complex, and the political landscape that Lincoln navigated–although lacking 24 hour news cycles, talking heads, and loudmouthed pundits–was nevertheless a treacherous and multi-faceted one. Team of Rivals is in large part Doris Kearns Goodwin’s attempt to illustrate just exactly how it was that he navigated those treacherous waters: gaining the presidency, winning the loyalty of the newly formed Republican party and love of the people despite his lack of education and political clout, bringing the country through the Civil War, passing one of the most influential pieces of legislation in history, and ultimately, ending with his assassination, and the Abraham Lincoln-shaped hole left in the world.
I say it is also simple because if DKG is to be believed (and I do believe her), Lincoln accomplished these things the same way he did everything in his life: by being a kindhearted, rational man with a good head for common sense on his shoulders, and a willingness to really listen and understand both his rivals and his allies. Early on in the book, DKG chronicles Lincoln’s tendency towards ‘melancholy,’ which she concludes was largely brought on by his extreme empathy. He brought a balance to everything he did that is probably most exemplified by his decision to bring his political rivals into his cabinet, and make them his chief advisors, a decision for which he was criticized, even by those same cabinet members.
The book is as much about those rivals as it is about Lincoln. William H. Seward, the most heavily favored candidate for president in 1860. Salmon P. Chase, a noted abolitionist, and a man simultaneously riddled with insecurities and absolutely rabid about his desire for the presidency, to the point where he believes himself destined for it, even though he has no talent for judging the climate of a situation. Edward Bates, the elderly statesman, who ran for president and then joined Lincoln’s cabinet despite a fierce desire to remain at home with his family. And Edwin M. Stanton, the famous lawyer, who upon first meeting Lincoln thought him incredibly dull and a hopeless rube. These are the men Lincoln surrounded himself with, and it’s notable that with the exception of Chase, who was a first class egomaniac and a total asshole to the end, all of them came to understand what a remarkable man Lincoln was, and to appreciate his unique abilities.
DKG’s writing is remarkably thorough, and by time I finished the book, I felt like I’d been through a master-class of Civil War era politics. Like all good historical writers, she mostly refrains from passing judgment, letting the evidence speak for itself. There were a few parts where I questioned the ‘Team of Rivals’ concept, but mostly only in regards to Chase. Seriously, you guys, that dude was really smart and he’s basically the reason we have paper money and everything, and he almost single-handedly helped fund the war effort, but . . . ASSHOLE. He never once acknowledged Lincoln’s aptitude for the presidency, believing until the end that HE should have been president, even going so far as to sow disloyalty in the cabinet leading up to the 1864 election (which he again was surprised at not being a top candidate, showing his total inability to understand why people disliked him). Of course, these actions cost him his place in the cabinet, even if he never understood why (he also never understood why his actions were so harmful). I mean, this is a guy who REGULARLY threatened to resign as a negotiation tactic with Lincoln, because he had the emotional maturity of an eight year old. But I will not say any more about Chase other than to emphasize that I really wish DKG would have clarified a little more why exactly he was such an essential piece of the team, because honestly, I think he was more trouble than he was worth. Lincoln, bless his heart, probably would have disagreed with me. He defended Chase’s integrity to the end, even giving him the Chief Justice position over several other less controversial candidates, because he truly believed Chase was the right man for the job, despite the backstabbing and manipulating he very well knew about.
Besides the big stuff, Team of Rivals was also chock full of tiny little details that were by turns amusing and disturbing. I will never get over Mary Lincoln and her shopping addiction, or how Lincoln’s secretaries called her ‘The Hellcat’ (they called Lincoln ‘The Ancient’). VP Andrew Johnson was totally wasted at the 1965 inauguaration, to the point of forgetting cabinet members’ names during his speech, and pointing to them instead. Almost all of the cabinet members took drastic paycuts to be in the cabinet, to the point where a couple risked financial ruin. And of course, the little tidbits about Lincoln himself. How awkward he was with the ladies, how much he loved to read (he carried a book with him everywhere), how he told stories constantly as a way to communicate . . . so many tidbits.
It took me three months to read this book, via audiobook. It was worth it. This is the kind of history I wish I would have read in high school, not that sanitized dumbed-down crap. The kind that takes history out of the realm of story, and gives it flesh and blood. The kind that makes me feel enough to cry for ten minutes while driving, to the point where I had to stop and park to gather my bearings. The kind of history that makes you feel the joy, and the wasted potential. The thing that makes me most sad–besides Lincoln’s death, obviously, is that with that idiot Andrew Johnson running things, the chance of a productive Reconstruction period (full of Lincoln’s trademark common sense and empathy, even for the South) went to almost nothing. How much different things could be even today if Lincoln had been the one to shepherd the reunification of our country, we’ll never know. But I like to think it would have mattered. That one man can be that influential, just by being kind and sympathetic from a place of power. It’s the reason Lincoln is so mythologized. He’s easy to mythologize. Hell, this is my favorite t-shirt, and I wear it with pride:
Fittingly, DKG ends her book with this quote, that I feel sums up things nicely.
“Washington was a typical American. Napoleon was a typical Frenchman, but Lincoln was a humanitarian as broad as the world. He was bigger than his country – bigger than all the Presidents together.”
Absolutely fascinating. Devastating. Jamaica Kincaid is one angry lady. This makes me never want to go vacationing to a tropical island. Ever.
"The thiAbsolutely fascinating. Devastating. Jamaica Kincaid is one angry lady. This makes me never want to go vacationing to a tropical island. Ever.
"The thing you have always suspected about yourself the minute you become a tourist is true: A tourist is an ugly human being. You are not an ugly person all the time; you are not an ugly person ordinarily; you are not an ugly person day to day. From day to day, you are a nice person. From day to day, all the people who are supposed to love you on the whole do. From day to day, as you walk down a busy street in the large and modern and prosperous city in which you work and lie, dismayed and puzzled at how alone you can feel in this crowd, how awful it is to go unnoticed, how awful it is to go unloved, even as you are surrounded by more people than you could possibly get to know in a lifetime that lasted for millennia and then out of the corner of your eye you see someone looking at you and absolute pleasure is written all over the person's face, and then you realize that you are not as revolting a presence as you think you are. And so, ordinarily, you are a nice person, an attractive person, a person capable of drawing to yourself the affection of other people, a person at home in your own skin: a person at home in your own house, with its nice backyard, at home on your street, your church, in community activities, your job, at home with your family, your relatives, your friends - you are a whole person."...more
Three stars for its historical value alone. Maybe two stars, if I'm being generous, for the actual content. It's rather poorly written, and generallyThree stars for its historical value alone. Maybe two stars, if I'm being generous, for the actual content. It's rather poorly written, and generally fails as an autobiography because Winnemucca fails to make herself relatable. I find her voice grating and overly-dramatic (in the bad way). ...more
God bless Advanced Reader Copies. (My only complaint is that I've read about 30% of the content on her blog already and I wish it had been less of a rGod bless Advanced Reader Copies. (My only complaint is that I've read about 30% of the content on her blog already and I wish it had been less of a re-tread.) Fastest I've read a book in a while....more
[Upon re-reading:] Sigh. I hope Joseph Campbell is in heaven, like, running around with unicorns and King Arthur and shamans or whatever, because he w[Upon re-reading:] Sigh. I hope Joseph Campbell is in heaven, like, running around with unicorns and King Arthur and shamans or whatever, because he was THE MAN....more
The power of Terry Tempest Williams's story -- the story of a family and landscape wracked by destructive forces -- is somewhat marred by melodramaticThe power of Terry Tempest Williams's story -- the story of a family and landscape wracked by destructive forces -- is somewhat marred by melodramatic, overly serious writing and unreal dialogue (I constantly found myself asking "Who talks like this?"). I wish that I hadn't reread this book, because I liked it better the first time. But despite my complaints, Williams has an important story to tell. This is a book definitely worth your time. ...more